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Ellis Larkins papers

Identifier: PIMS-0075

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  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Ellis Larkins papers contain materials documenting the career and creative work of jazz pianist Ellis Larkins. Series 1 includes photocopied pages of scrapbooks about Larkins that were kept by his wife, Crystal Brown Larkins. Materials include photocopied and original programs, clippings, correspondence, and photographs. Also included are song lyrics written by Crystal Brown Larkins. Series 2 contains sound recordings of Larkins and other musicians on LP records and reel-to-reel tape.


  • Creation: 1930-2002


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use at the Peabody Archives. Contact for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.

Biographical / Historical

Ellis Larkins (1923-2002) was a pianist based in Baltimore. In 1934 he made his debut with the Baltimore City Colored Orchestra. Larkins studied classical piano at Douglass High School and as a special student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, taking lessons from Austin Conradi and Pasquale Tallarico. Larkins also served as an organist at the St. James Episcopal Church in Harlem Park.

In 1940 Larkins received a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School of Music, graduating in 1943. While in New York he worked as a pianist in several different clubs and restaurants. It was there that he began his career as a jazz musician, playing in a trio led by the guitarist Billy Moore. Larkins worked for several years as a vocal coach and accompanist for Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams. He recorded music with Ella Fitzgerald and appeared in a few short films and documentaries. Larkins continued to perform at clubs and festivals in New York and California. In 1984, the Peabody Institute awarded Larkins an honorary Bachelor of Music degree. He retired in Baltimore and died in 2002.


1.82 Cubic Feet (1 full-size letter box, 1 half-size letter box, 1 record center box)

Language of Materials



Ellis Larkins was a jazz pianist from Baltimore who studied at the Peabody Conservatory and had an active professional career from the 1940s to the 1990s. His papers include photocopied scrapbooks about his career as well as original photographs, clippings, concert programs, correspondence, and recordings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Scrapbooks maintained by Crystal Brown Larkins were photocopied by archives staff in 1997. Crystal Brown Larkins donated other documents in 1997 and sound recordings in 2003. Some additional clippings may have been collected by the Peabody Institute Public Information office and added to the collection by archives staff.

Related Materials

An oral history of Larkins can be found in the Sounds and Stories collection, PIMS.0091.

Processing Information

Processed primarily by Elizabeth Schaaf, 1997-2004.

Guide to the Ellis Larkins papers
Kerri Sheehan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2024-03-21: Changed "Larkins studied classical piano at Douglass High School and at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, at a time when African-American students were generally not admitted at Peabody" to "Larkins studied classical piano at Douglass High School and as a special student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, taking lessons from Austin Conradi and Pasquale Tallarico."

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA